Dr Mark Short will be carrying the special blessing of a predecessor when he's installed as the 11th Anglican Bishop of Canberra/Goulburn on Saturday.
Around his neck he'll be wearing the pectoral cross belonging to the seventh Bishop Cecil Warren (1971 to 1983), now 95 and living in retirement in Toowoomba.
The Right Reverend Warren will not be there but more than 1200 other people will be present.
The bells of Saint Saviour's Cathedral will be ringing for the occasion, which only occurs every 10 to 14 years.
Dr Short, 51, succeeds Bishop Stuart Robinson in the role. He was selected from five candidates last November during a special Synod held in Goulburn.
"There's a whole range of emotions," Dr Short said ahead of the installation.
"I'm very honoured and humbled that the diocese has called me to serve alongside them in this way and excited about the opportunity to connect and reconnect with old friends and new. It's an opportunity to gather together and seek God's blessing, not just in my ministry but for all God's people in this part of the world and to encourage each other to go out and serve the Lord in God's mission together."
Dr Short said he was surprised to be approached to consider the role. But in many ways it was a 'coming home' to the diocese and the cathedral in which he was ordained a priest and a minister.
Born in Sydney, he lived in the Riverina until age five before his family moved to Sydney's western suburbs. He attended Saint Andrew's Anglican School where several teachers inspired him to follow Jesus.
"For them it was clear that the christian faith was not just an item to tick off in order to gain employment; it was something that made a difference to the way they lived and related to other people and the way they cared for a bunch of teenage boys," Dr Short said.
But after university he worked as a financial journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald before joining the public service in Canberra as a graduate economist for the Department of Industrial Relations.
But by the 1990s, the call was too strong. Dr Short studied at Sydney's Moore Theological College and Durham University in the UK before he was ordained a priest in 1997.
Come Saturday, other things besides that evening's Eels versus Sharks match will be on his mind.
Temora was his first posting. Later he was rector at Turvey Park and spent nine years as Archdeacon of Wagga Wagga. Since 2011 he has been the national director of the Bush Church Aid Society, supporting Anglican ministry in rural and regional Australia.
The role has seen him travel the country's length and breadth.
"It gave Mark an appreciation of the church nationally, which is very valuable," Dean of Saint Saviour's Phillip Saunders explained.
Dr Short said the role was fulfilling but he had to think, and pray, deeply when approached to consider the Bishop's position.
"Canberra/Goulburn is my home diocese," he said.
"My wife and I spent our first years of married life in this diocese and we went into ministry from here so we felt that we knew it and there were folk here who knew us. We trusted that God would work through them as they exercised that responsibility of who who lead them."
He's looking forward to delivering "a more local" ministry in what he describes as wonderfully diverse diocese of regional cities and smaller rural towns.
Dr Short said he'd approach the role in three ways: Being open to the needs and opportunities within communities; listening to people's questions about faith; and being attentive to what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.
In the wake of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, he said it was vital the church was a safe place. He was committed to ensuring proper policies and procedures were in place for those working in ministry.
"I (also) recognise that where that has failed to be the case, it is absolutely vital that we respond in a way that is just and compassionate both in terms of providing pastoral care and support but also financial assistance to survivors, as is appropriate. I see that very much as being central to the Bishop's task and it's part of what God is calling us to be as people at this time," Dr Short said.
He told The Post the church had to respond wisely and with grace and humility to these faith challenges.Dr Short and wife, Monica, a social work lecturer with Charles Sturt University's Wagga Wagga campus, will move from their current home in Sydney to Canberra. They have two sons, Andrew, 25 and Matthew, twenty-one.
When not preaching, Dr Short is a mad-keen Parramatta Eels supporter who also enjoys bushwalking. He also admitted to being somewhat of a train enthusiast.
But come Saturday, other things besides that evening's Eels versus Sharks match will be on his mind.
The installation, at 11am, will involve 21 Bishops from around Australia who will "lay hands" on the new appointee. The service will be led by Sydney Archbishop, Glenn Davies, the leading Bishop in Australia. The Archbishops of Melbourne, Philip Freier and of Brisbane, Phillip Aspinall will also attend.
The Reverend Neville Naden, indigenous ministry officer for the Bush Church Aid Society will be the preacher.
Representatives from other churches, including Catholic Archbishop Christopher Prowse, will be among the guests.
Mayor Bob Kirk will speak on behalf of Goulburn Mulwaree residents, while Senator for the ACT, Ned Seselja will also address the congregation.
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